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Expo 70 / Ancient Ocean

Sound of Cobra / No=Fi Records


LP (edition of 500 black vinyl)








Justin Wright / Expo 70 for this 12" keeps his psych drone space attitude mixed with kraut influences. Hanging the guitar at the wall in a corner, he recorded a great moog impro (using OPUS 3 and Realistic): a tranquil ambient soundtrack, dreamy as tangerine dream can be, perfect for a space journey, somewhere else near the stars, far far away from this earth we live on; a warm texture keeps us in vacuum place and no rythms come to bring us back to the reality. Listening to it, we thought there´s a magic place somewhere and we wanna find it and go there: but now, we just enjoy this 20mins Justin made for us.

The other side is for the brooklyn based musician John Bohannon aka ANCIENT OCEAN: hailing from the American South, he has howned a unique style of blissed-out  amibent/drone meets americana-rooted psychedelia. The spaceship we were on slowly turns into a submarine and from the outer space we quicly dive into a deep ocean made of guitar loops and samples, listening to it we feel lost in a mix of cold and warm currents and dark shadows swim all around. Nice to be here!




I do like a bit of Expo 70. He’s done some top records over the years! This beastie is a split with Ancient Ocean on the Sound Of Cobra/No Fi labels and they did only press 500 they did. Only. You know it’s gonna be cosmic right but how cosmic do you think it will be?

It’s cosmic alright! The Expo side sees Justin Wright wanging his guitar into the aether as he’s now all about the Moog (albeit via some computer software). It’s sweet! Lush layers of cosmic vibes and space noises are throbbing away over some intense-sounding repeato drones culminating in what sounds like an awesome sci-fi soundtrack. It’s totally chilling me out as well which is what I need after an insanely busy day in the Norm sweatshop.


The flip by Ancient Ocean starts off in a much more sedate fashion with some minimal pulsing bass tones before layers of ambience build up around it. It stays minimal (and Rain Drinkers-y) until about half way through when some mega guitar comes in and totally changes the direction into a more psychy spacey cosmic drone thing for a bit until it goes all ambient and chilled for the rest of the side. It’s an amazingly rich and varied piece of music and the album is well worth checking out for either side since both are excellent. - 5/5...according to our Phil on Fri 28 Sep, 2012.




ªªEdition of 500** Heralding Ancient Ocean and Expo 70's upcoming European tour, Berlin's consistently ace Sound Of Cobra label links with Rome's excellent NO=FI Recordings to set off this celestial side of widescreen synth drone. A-side pilot, John Bohannon aka Ancient Ocean, is a new name on our radar and impresses with his sublime grasp of pacing and nocturnal lighting on 'Decomposition // Decay'. Originally hailing from the American South, but now residing in Brooklyn, he distills rich, vapourous pads with throat singing and lonely log cabin guitar in sanguine form, picking out almost baroque melodies and psychedelic jangles with a compelling sense of narration leading us across desolate plateaus to a magickal resting place of liquified bass subduction. Justin Wright aka Expo 70's B-side 'Waves in Caverns of Air' is a more tumultuous prospect, documenting a riveting dialogue with his Moog Realistic and OPUS-3 models. Tranquil tones in the upper register are kept tense by great, roiling bass shapes, opening a vacuum which sucks in strafing spumes to its perilous black hole core. We'd imagine this will sound stunning in a live setting.




ªªBAND OF THE WEEK** The concept of “the split” – the split LP, the split EP, the split seven-inch, the split cassette – remains an underutilized favorite of ours for a variety of reasons, not least because the form remains the domain of what might reasonably be called the underground … or the subterranean … or the fuzz-obsessed freaks of burden.


Most notably, a split release allows us the opportunity to blather on predictably, pointlessly, to the delight of no one, about another favorite, underutilized concept – the “oneness of the duality. Not two, not one. This is the most important teaching.”


There’s probably few artists in the galaxy that strike us as better suited for use in the confrontation and contemplation of those heavy head-scratchers like “the oneness of the duality” than Expo 70. Over the course of seemingly countless releases birthed over the better part of the past decade, Expo 70 (the nom de l’exploration spatiale of Missouri-via-Mars resident Justin Wright) has created a marvelous legacy of sonic sorcery – or, to take the name of one of the releases on his own Sonic Meditations label, an inspired school of astral music.


Class, then, is most certainly in session for the recent release on the Sound of Cobra label, pairing Expo 70 with Ancient Ocean. Inspired as always, Expo 70 leads the journey – from sound, entry to everything.


Both artists here offer their own individual, 20-plus minute excursion into the deepest realms of deep listening, droning soundscapes both ambient and astral in nature, weaved together with a sense of a serpentine stream of consciousness, befitting the snake-named nature of the releasing label, Sound of Cobra. In the sound of both Ancient Ocean and Expo 70, there’s no need for the narrow definitions of “song” – and description alone casts a cold shadow over the proceedings. Rather, what applies are the emotions – pleasantly puzzling, stimulating, and enthusiastic emotions, brought about by a warm exploration of individuals slowing time.




There are two different approaches to a similar theme on this joint LP release from Sound Of Cobra and NO=FI Recordings. Sonic travellers Expo ’70 (Justin Wright) and Ancient Ocean (John Bohannon) take on a side each, tackling themes of large-scale desolation and the subsequent rush of squeamish creation.


Bohannon’s patience balances well with Wright’s overflowing bag of tricks. Whereas ‘Waves In Caverns of Air”s formless febrility seems to seethe instantly with elemental activity, the glueish hum that grounds and surrounds ‘Decomposition Decay’ takes aeons to reach a comparable stage. If we imagine Wright presents the sound of earth developing in space, then Bohannon gives us life emerging on earth.


Initially, ‘Decomposition Decay’ allows little space in which to breathe. A long, muffled rumble gives birth to slow spasms of guitar, echoing into eternal darkness never to return. The effect is that of being lost deep down in an endless sea; floating aimlessly and calling hopelessly for help. Sheets of guitar noise sever the scene like daggers of sun shearing the surface above, breaking things down into quiet invisibility and building tentatively back up again.


Leaping from the Ancient Ocean and into Carl Sagan’s cosmic equivalent, Justin Wright eschews his guitar and returns to a synth-only sound to lay down haze and spark for a twenty-minute piece that doesn’t so much travel as drift, breeding offshoots along the way through a lazy interstellar osmosis. There’s an impish playfulness to the way he shocks light from this thick dust fug, suggesting a quickly captured selection of brainwaves escaping from the sonic bag just as soon as they get stuffed in. After great swathes of pulsating drone pass by the runaways get more and more excitable, springing off like shooting stars, settling somewhere in the vastness of it all to host a billion further creation stories. If there’s any luck they too will get sound-tracked by Bohannon and Wright.


- Steve Dewhurst for Fluid Radio




Ancient Ocean's side - Decomposition // Decay is a sublime procession of pulsating texture, a hazing of the subconscious. Electron false colours filled with droplets of distended keystrokes and singing bowl reverberations. Mellow actions of dronic love unravelling in zero gravities, punctured in a un-tethering of romantic glisten … Aural drama, magnified in a gorgeous acidic pour of guitar… a starlit gargantuan of fizzing expectation amongst the neurological vapours… a chemical ascension on gliss-kissed guitar lay lines and veiny spiders of nocturne, inching root balls clouded in carouselled confetti's…


The flipside from Expo 70, aptly entitled Waves in Caverns of Air, ekes out a darkened Dali-esque drone that’s perspectively thrown, real minimal fare with oscillatory owl whorls, puckering those ever expanding vanishing points as if Delia Derbyshire was remixing from beyond… Highlights falling through the ethereal cloak in a twist of shadow, relayed on a chorus of mirrored satellites … keyboard blurs gluing the interferences together into a vaselined airbrush of orbiting spacecraft, oozing the repeated rrrr’s of relaxation, seemingly caught between those ultra violet hues of the cover. Another sterling release from No-Fi...




The collaboration between the two labels No = Fi Recording of Rome and the Sound Of Cobra of Berlin, among the most attentives to the best sounds of recent years, has just issued a split album, vinyl only, featuring two cosmic and synthetic ambient-drone projects. The two long enchanting suites, one on each side, are the work of Justin Wright aka Expo 70 and John Bohannon aka Ancient Ocean.


On the one hand we have 20 minutes of Expo 70 who, with a cyclic journey, explores first the inside of some mysterious cave, then opens himself in an unknown galaxy and finally returns to the base having picked up the sounds he wanted. We share the stories of Tangerine Dream and the retro electronic soundtracks of sci-fi movies from forty years ago.


The suite of Ancient Ocean has a slower, less dark and synthetic dynamic than his mate split: now we are traveling, with more intimate reflection and evocative psychedelia, on less spatial carpets, swaying on a post-rock roller, many Pink Floydian undertows, but remaining anchored to an ethereal and calming backdrop.


A highly recommended exploration of sound, with or without additive hallucinogens. Do not miss the live that the couple is carrying on tour in Europe, which will also stop-by in Italy in the coming days.




Two acts, two sides and two twenty-something minute slabs of dusk-tinted post-apocalyptic drone.


Ancient Ocean has called their side "Decomposition // Decay". From the most spectral of beginnings, it builds up with a resonating intensity before suddenly erupting fiery wall of guitar at around the nine minute mark. It withdraws into a shell of nocturnal melancholia. This poignant, synth-heavy phase plays it out.


Expo '70's side, "Waves in Caverns of Air", hums straight into life with some deep. heavy electronic drones, sort of like "Cluster II" lost in space. It builds in tension until the drones sound like they are going to vibrate right through the wall of reality. It becomes like a cross between vintage Klaus Schulze and Shamanic summoning.


Two acts. two sides and two strong trips.




Expo ‘70 (Justin Wright), il beniamino di Aquarius Records, già di casa in Italia grazie a Boring Machines (che lo mise su uno split col corriere cosmico-veneto Be Invisible Now!), gioca di nuovo da noi per merito di NO=FI Recordings e Sound Of Cobra, ancora con uno split. La sua controparte, stavolta, è americana, e la conosce bene: si chiama John Bohannon, si firma Ancient Ocean, compare sulla sua Sonic Meditations e lo accompagnerà in tour dalle nostre parti (dopo il passaggio in Olanda per l’ormai prestigioso Incubate). Il lavoro di Bohannon qui, del resto, dimostra che questi amici stanno praticando quanto meno lo stesso sport: tappeto etereo generato probabilmente con dei synth, interventi di chitarra non distanti nel tocco da quelli di Nimh/Hall Of Mirrors, un generale approccio vintage che tira in ballo i soliti nomi tedeschi (verso la fine anche certi Popol Vuh, ad esempio).


Expo ’70, dal canto suo, cerca di differenziare le tracce pur conservando la sua identità. NO=FI ci racconta che qui ha accantonato la chitarra per cimentarsi esclusivamente con due tipi di sintetizzatore moog: Opus 3 e Realistic. Il risultato è suggestivo e – ça va sans dire – ci porta in giro in un’astronave così come se la immaginavano negli anni Sessanta/Settanta del Novecento. Questa volta, addirittura, per qualche secondo – oltre a quelle dei soliti noti – ha ripercorso anche le orme di Jarre, ma forse è solo un caso.


Il senso di meraviglia più nostalgia che trasmettevano questi artisti, passato qualche anno, è temperato da una sorta di assuefazione. Rimangono però, dischi alla mano, un’estetica indovinata e un tocco magico. La sfida oggi è non fossilizzarsi (e qualcuno sta provando a tirar fuori anche altre carte dal mazzo): quel che certo è che comunque, col tour europeo, venderanno tutti i 12’’ stampati per quest’uscita. Alla festa manca solo un altro uomo Sonic Meditations, collaboratore di Expo ‘70: Matt Hill aka Umberto, un altro i cui vinili (uno recentissimo prodotto sempre dall’italiana Black Moss) vanno immediatamente esauriti.




Wer sich in der Welt der Drones und Soundscapes für Spuren von Psychedelia, Krautrock und diversen Synthiepionieren der 70er Jahre interessiert, der kann sich heutzutage über ein zufriedenstellendes Angebot freuen und hat schlimmstenfalls sogar ein kleines Auswahlproblem. In der Menge an Erzeugnissen geht manches zwangsläufig unter, und besonders betroffen ist davon sicher diejenige Musik, die über weite Strecken dezent hintergründig und gewollt introvertiert ist. Vor allem ersteres trifft auf viele Arbeiten zu, die die beiden Amerikaner Justin Wright und John Bohannon in den letzten Jahren unter ihren Projektnamen Expo ’70 und Ancient Ocean aufgenommen haben. Allerdings sind die beiden derzeit so rührig, dass sie auch diesseits des alten Ozeans ihren Geheimtippstatus bald abgeschüttelt haben dürften. Konzerte mit großen Namen wie Tom Carter (Charalambides), Wooden Shjips, White Hills und Psychic Ills tun ihr übriges. Ist man erst einmal dem Reiz ihrer Harmonien und Melodien erlegen, bedarf es solcher Tags ohnehin nicht mehr. Das jüngste Lebenszeichen ist ihre erste gemeinsame Split-LP, die zwei sonore Zeitmaschinen mit doppeltem Boden enthält.


Wright bezeichnet die Musik von Expo 70 als „late midnight improvisation“, und der Name des Projektes, das anfangs noch als Trio in Erscheinung trat, referiert auf eine Weltausstellung im japanischen Osaka, die 1970 unter dem Motto „Progress and Harmony for Mankind“ stattfand. Beide Sschlagworte fassen die Musik ganz gut zusammen: Die etwas kühle, stets dunkle Klanggestalt der Sci Fi-artigen Stücke, die oft einen recht freien, verspielten Verlauf nehmen und einen ganz eigenen eskapistischen Kosmos entwerfen, in dem jedes Gestirn an seinem Ort ist, in dem Raum und Zeit jedoch zugleich bedeutungslos geworden sind. Entgegen seiner Gewohnheit tritt Expo ’70 auf seinem rund zwanzigminütigen Beitrag „Waves in Caverns of Air“ nicht primär als Gitarrist, sondern als Keyboarder in Erscheinung und baut das cinematische Drone, das sich anfangs noch nicht so recht entscheiden mag, ob es nun lieber organisch oder doch eher „technisch“ klingen will, mit einem altehrwürdigen Moog Synthie, dessen weicher und zugleich körniger Sound irgendwann an Fülle gewinnt und, trotz sporadischer Sirenensounds und weiterer Überraschungen, durch langsame Repetition das Klassenziel nahezu aller Drones erreicht: eine hypnotisch-einlullende Wirkung.


Im Gegensatz zur kosmischen Abgehobenheit von Expo 70 erscheint die Parallelwelt von Ancient Ocean erdverhafteter, ihr Klang ist wärmer und basslastiger, und kontrastiv zum eher europäisch anmutenden Krautambient der ersten Seite hallt hier – wenn auch verhalten – die Tradition amerikanischer Psychedelia nach. „Decomposition Decay“ beginnt mit einem sehr leisen Auftakt und fordert zunächst Konzentration, die recht bald mit einer unheimlichen Atmosphäre belohnt wird. Dem eher leichtfüßigen Klang Wrights stellt Bohannon hier eine ernstere und zugleich wechselseitigere Klanglandschaft gegenüber, in der melodisches, beinahe pastorales Gitarrenpicking auf doomige Zeitlupenriffs trifft.


Dass Musik dieser Art heute keine Revolution mehr auslöst ist klar, und im Hinblick auf sonore Weltgegenden ist die Zeit großer Entdeckungen ebenfalls gezählt. Gerade spacige, futuristische Musik vollzieht heutzutage eine paradox anmutende Vorwärts-Rückwärts-Bewegung in der Geschichte, indem sie nachzuvollziehen sucht, wie man sich gestern das Übermorgen vorstellte. Dabei kann immer noch Interessantes wiederentdeckt und hin und wieder auch mal eine Kleinigkeit hinzu erfunden werden. Dennoch ist solche Musik heute primär eine Musik der Genießer und Sammler. Die sollten aber, wenn sie Geschmack haben, die spacige Nachtmusik von Expo ’70 und Ancient Ocean nicht übergehen und zusehen, dass sie noch eines der fünfhundert Exemplare ergattern.




Eine Überraschung nach einem eher fahrigen Live-Auftritt. Ancient Oceans (aka John Bohannon) hat nicht nur die vorliegende Split-12“ mit Expo ‘70 (aka Justin Wright) veröffentlicht, sondern diesen auch auf seiner 2012er Europa-Tour begleitet. In der Filmwerkstatt Düsseldorf als nervöser, angestrengter Gegensatz zu einem völlig in sich ruhenden Justin Wright, der im Anschluss an den Auftritt von Ancient Oceans die Hörer/-innen in zwei(!!!) sehr langen Sets ins Anderswo schickte. Davor aber Ancient Oceans. Und wenn das, was zu hören war auch interessant klang; durch die (irgendwie grundlos erscheinenden) dauernden Unterbrechungen im Vortrag und eine Dynamik, die oft ungeplant und eher wie nicht gewollt wirkte (und eben nicht Teil der Komposition), fand echte Stimmung, ein Einstimmen auf Ancient Oceans kaum bis nicht statt.


Umso größer die Überraschung nach dem ersten Hören dieser Split: eine fokussierte wie filigrane Gitarren-basierte Komposition („Decomposition // Decay“), mit fadendünnen Drones, die plötzlich (und hier, auf Tonträger passt es dann doch) erweitert und verbreitert werden; mit abstrakten Melodien und trotz aller experimenteller Grundhaltung fast songhaften Zusammenhang. Definitiv eine Neuentdeckung, die es wert ist, auch in Zukunft beobachtet zu werden. Expo ‘70 setzt auf seinem One-Tracker „Waves In Caverns Of Air“ auf den Synth und eine leicht nebelhaft verhangene Haltung; ohne jeden Zweifel geeignet, die Zuhörer/-innen in Richtung Trip zu schicken; im Gegensatz zu seinen mit Gitarre realisierten Arbeiten noch stärker in der (Synth-)Musik der 70er verwurzelt.


Beide Seiten in sehr guter Pressqualität und super Sound in einem der typischen Expo ‘70 Cover, hier weniger bildhaft, mehr abstrakt. Und wenn es an diesem wirklich guten Release überhaupt etwas zu mäkeln gibt, dann maximal über den Download-Code. Den gibt es nämlich nicht.




Then there is this split LP the Missouri multi-instrumentalist did with NY avant-savant Ancient Ocean (AKA John Bohannon of Electric Temple Records) through Sound of Cobra (in collaboration with NO=FI Records). Expo 70’s contribution is the 21 minute ‘Waves In Caverns of Air’, which eschews the guitar for more effects driven glacial Moog drone. The planet Hoth reimagined by Stanley Kubrick. (Ancient Ocean’s track is damned rad too).




We begin 2012 with a carefully balanced one-sided 12” vinyl from Justin Wright, originally Los Angeles, later Kansas City based guitar-wielding cosmic courier, who plays an updated, expanded take on Kosmische Musik, where six strings and analog synthesizers go hand in hand with a mission to create vast, psychedelic mindscapes. Why balanced? Because of its one side, on which there are two tracks, both making up some 24 minutes – which probably should classify this release as a “mini-album”, but maybe even an EP.


The opening track, 15-minute long “Hovering Resonance”, is a showcase of Expo 70’s trademark elements: a massive, distant, and pulsing synthesizer drone sets the mood for an endlessly looping and overlaying guitar hallucinations constatnly evolving and fluctuating in the form of Le Berceau de Cristal era Ash Ra Tempel style soloing. Last, but not least, Wright throws a slow beat, yet unstoppable beat into the mix, like a clock marking the changes in this ever-unfolding piece making it sound nearly like very slowed down, drugged out ambient techno jam.


The shorter piece, “Moon Raga”, changes the mood from a “cosmic-shamanic-desert-plateau-guitar/synth-ritual” mood to a more down to Earth, somewhat “traditional” Orient-inspired mood, replacing LSD with hashish. The bassy synth drone pulsates throughout the piece, looming in the background like a vintage electric organ sustained on the lowest note with Arabic drum instruments taking the spotlight. But instead of going on a rampage with maniacal drumming (like Popol Vuh would do on their In den Gärten Pharaos, the drums play a steady, unchanged beat (like the electronic heart of the previous piece). Sinister metallic noise explodes in the back every now and then, adding an unsettling, a little uncomfortable vibe to the druggy, floating experience of the EP.


Apart from many, many Kosmische Musik revivalists there are just a few who really stand out with their visions of music and their idea of taking their sound to the new levels while staying true to their ancestors. These include Expo ‘70, who takes the guitar-synth harmony of Manuel Göttsching and updates it with a roughed up, spacerockish imagery, Le Révélateur, who perfectly catches the sunny, proto New Age side of German synthesists and Food Pyramid, who flat out rock with their clean-cut, Neu!-infused krautrock. Are we entering the new krautrock era? I certainly hope so – Justin Wright is paving the way.